Northeastern Section–41st Annual Meeting (20–22 March 2006)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


HATCHER, Joseph, Curator of Paleontology, PaleoWorld Research Foundation, Garfield County Museum, P.O. Box 408, Jordan, MT 59337 and POOLE, Jason C., Lab Manager, Dinosaur Hall Fossil Preparation Lab, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1900 Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103,

From the sand dunes of Tattooine to the karst topography of Utapau, the Star Wars films have historically been attentive to the geological variation seen in the background of each film. In George Lucas' fictional space opera that occurs “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” we see a geologically diverse galaxy where entire celestial bodies can almost be entirely molten and volcanic. The fictional planet Mustafar, which is not very different from planets and moons within our own solar system, (Jupiter's moon Io) is a primary example. Footage of a recent volcanic eruption of Mount Edna was included in at least one Mustafar scene in Revenge of the Sith. The mythical ice world Hoth, with a frozen surface over oceanic systems, from The Empire Strikes Back might also be comparable to another one of Jupiter's moons, Europa.

For audiences who grew up with the Star Wars movies, it is difficult not to at least ponder some of the extremely beautiful and perplexing geological structures that exist only in this galaxy far, far away. Structures like the spires of Geonosis raise inquiry into the natural processes that were in place to create such structures. Are they remnants of some gigantic cave system that has eroded over the millennia leaving behind only the stalagmites? Or are the spires trace fossils resembling in-filled burrows? What structures existing on Earth were used as inspiration for the set artists working on the epic?

Scientific comparison from these fictional science films to our own world have spawned such books as The Science of Star Wars by Jeanne Cavelos (1999) and the current museum exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science, Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. Allowing visitors to explore the status of modern science compared to that of the Star Wars films, the exhibit focuses on such topics as hovercraft, starships, and robotics. However, little attention has been given to the geological background that makes up the stage on which these epic events transpire.

From the tragic extinction event of Alderan that changed the geology of the Star Wars galaxy, to the molten Hadean-like surface of Mustafar, the Star Wars saga offers many opportunities to further explore its galactic geology, if for only our own stimulation and exercise.